The U.S. military comes up with some amazing aircraft to meet its battlefield requirements. And American defense contractors are not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to U.S. air superiority.
But not every idea is a hit. No one is 100-percent perfect every time, but sometimes it makes a pilot wonder, “how the hell did this get made?”
5. Vought F7U Cutlass
They should have known there was going to be a problem when the first three prototypes of the “Gutless Cutlass” crashed. To the surprise of nobody, the Navy’s first two delivered F7U also crashed.
Its biggest issue was its nose-driven, underpowered design, which sounds like it might be a problem for taking off from a carrier — which it was. The Cutlass — aka “The Ensign Eliminator” — went away almost as fast as it appeared.
4. McDonnell XF-85 Goblin
This thing looks like the Smart Car of fighter aircraft. It was designed to fly with a bomber fleet, detach, fight off enemy fighters, and then reattach for the trip home. It was a pretty big problem for the Air Force when the Goblin couldn’t re-attach. It was a bigger problem because it also didn’t have landing gear.
Gretchen, stop trying to make parasite fighters happen. It’s not going to happen.
3. The Brewster F2A Buffalo
The appropriately named Buffalo fighter went into action against the nimble fighters Japan fielded in the early days of WWII. They went in, but they never came out because they ambled like an awkward pack animal right into the teeth of superior aircraft.
The Buffalo had a number of mechanical flaws, including — but not limited to — machine guns not actually firing. So, naturally, when the Navy replaced most of their fighters, the Buffalo was given to the Marines, who quickly dubbed it the “Flying Coffin.”
2. Douglas TBD Devastator
When the Devastator was first ordered by the Navy in 1938, it was the most advanced aircraft of its kind. Unfortunately, by the time WWII came around, it was horribly obsolete. It was a slow-mover with a top speed of just over 200 mph and could only drop its torpedo while flying in a straight line… and only if it was flying at less than 115 mph.
Also, sometimes the plane’s torpedo didn’t even explode on impact, negating the whole point of a torpedo bomber.
1. The Cantilever “Christmas Bullet”
Look at this thing; it looks like a refrigerator box with wings. It’s an early airplane, built in 1919 by Dr. William Whitney Christmas, but it looks like it was designed to kill anyone who might fly it. It featured no strut supports for the wings, which were designed to flap in flight. The designer swore it could travel to Germany to kidnap the Kaiser.
Unsurprisingly, no pilot wanted to test fly the Christmas Bullet once they actually saw it. One brave man decided to give it a shot… and he was instantly killed when the wings twisted and tore away.